Recent events such as the Tohoku Tsunami in Japan, floods in Thailand (2011), Hurricane Sandy in the United States, and conflicts in Libya and Yemen are some examples of crisis situations in which migrants are among the most affected populations. Language and cultural barriers, restrictions to mobilization, irregular status, loss of personal documents, limited access to support networks and discrimination, are factors which may affect migrants during crisis. Moreover, in some unfortunate cases migrants remain excluded from the official protection mechanisms.
In this context, Migrants in Countries in Crisis Initiative (MICIC) was launched in 2014, and led by the United States and the Philippines. The initiative promoted broad and inclusive evidence-gathering and facilitated series of consultations, which resulted in the development of a set of principles, guidelines, and practices intended to provide guidance to States in order to better protect migrant in crisis situations.
MICIC Initiative proposes 10 principles to States on how to prepare for and respond to crisis in ways that protect migrants during the time of crisis:
- First, save lives. Respect for the inherent humanity and dignity of migrants means all possible efforts should be taken to save lives, regardless of immigration status.
- As human beings, all migrants are entitled to human rights. At all times, the human rights of migrants should be respected.
- States bear the primary responsibility to protect migrants within their territories and their own citizens, including when they are abroad. Host States and States of transit have responsibilities towards all persons within their territories, including migrants, regardless of their immigration status.
- Private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society play a significant role in protecting migrants and in supporting States to protect migrants.
- Humanitarian action to protect migrants should be guided by the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence.
- Migrants are rights holders and capable actors, resilient and creative in the face of adversities. They are not merely victims or passive recipients of assistance. While crisis affect individual migrants differently, they have the capacity to take charge of their own safety and wellbeing and should be responsible for doing so, provided they have access to the necessary information and support.
- Migrants strengthen the vitality of both their host States and States of origin in multiple ways. Migrants provide for and contribute to their families, communities, and societies. Positive communication about migrants promotes tolerance, non-discrimination, inclusiveness, and respect toward migrants.
- Action at the local, national, regional, and international levels is necessary to improve responses. Local authorities and non-State local actors, including local communities and community leaders, are particularly well placed to understand and address needs during crisis.
- Partnerships, cooperation, and coordination are essential between and among States, private sector actors, international organizations, civil society, local communities, and migrants.
- Continuous research, learning, and innovation improve our collective response. Regular assessments and evaluations of past experiences in protecting migrants in countries experiencing conflicts or natural disasters can inform planning, preparation, and responses.
MICIC Initiative also provides guidelines and practices, which will be addressed in our next blog posts. If you are interested in learning more about this issue, the report is available here: GUIDELINES TO PROTECT MIGRANTS IN COUNTRIES EXPERIENCING CONFLICT OR NATURAL DISASTER
About the author:
Jean Pierre Mora Casasola is a Communications Specialist at IOM Regional Office for Central America, North America and the Caribbean. He has served as a consultant in different social organizations and in the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). He holds a Degree in Advertising from the University “Latinoamericana de Ciencia y Tecnología” (ULACIT), and he is currently getting a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations at the same university. Twitter: @jeanpierremora